Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

2 Av 5760 - August 3, 2000 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Home and Family
Eretz Yisroel is Acquired Through Yisurim

We are in the midst of that period of the year which has been historically difficult for our people. Below, we focus on a space of suffering, a trying period for the residents of Eretz Yisroel two centuries ago. While the suffering spans months and years, in reading about it, we are able to empathize in general with the hardships that often accompanies settling in Eretz Yisroel, and makes living here all the more precious and well earned.

Familiar with the street name in Har Nof, Mishkelov? That is a corruption of Mi-Shklov; it is named after the famous R' Yisroel from the city of Shklov in Europe, disciple of the Vilna Gaon. He came to settle with his family and lived both in Tzefat and Yerusholayim. In his famous work, Pe'as Hashulchon, which deals with the mitzvos related to the Holy Land, he mentions his personal tribulations spanning the years 1813- 1825:

"And so, it is my obligation, as well, to mention the suffering and troubles which I underwent, those sufferings which one can expect in relation to settling in Eretz Yisroel, as it is written, `Hashem did afflict me sorely... but did not give me over to death.'

"And it happened in the year 5573... that I came in the midst of a time of troubles and epidemic in the holy Galilee... And people became like fish in water, and fled in numbers to the deserts and the forests in organized groups. My family and I also traveled to the holy city of Yerusholayim, but along the way, the mainstay of my home, my modest, refined wife of my youth, the G-d-fearing Henya, passed away, on the fifth of Sivan. I buried her in the town of Shfaram.

"When I finally arrived with the rest of the family in Yerusholayim, I also encountered fear, terror, darkness, and death stalking the windows. My children left me bereft, never to return. Endeared sons, my heart's favorites. The plague first claimed my son-in-law, Yoel ben Yeidel, at the age of seventeen. This tragedy was followed by the death of my pure and humble daughter, Leah... who left behind a nursing infant, my beloved grandson, who became the scholarly R' Elyokim, my precious one. I suffered greatly in raising him to the age of twenty, when he, too, was taken from me on motzoei Shvi'is, 5594... Next to depart was my beloved son and my cherished daughter... and then another favorite son of pure intellect... And then I heard the evil tidings from the district of Vilna, Lithuania, that my father and master, R' Shmuel zt'l, had passed away, as well as my nurturer and upbringer, my mother, the righteous Malka.

"I felt like one lying in a sea of flames, with my dear ones so distant from me. I went up to the roof and lay there, weeping, writhing, praying fervently to Hashem. At this very time, my young daughter, Sheindel, was ailing critically, stricken severely, and the tears would not leave my cheeks...

"Meanwhile, in the Galilee, flocks and flocks of people were falling away, men of truth, esteemed scholars and members of our group. Then I made a vow, saying, `If Hashem bestows His kindness on me and restores me to the ranks of the living, I will toil to produce a master work on the Order of Zeroim, Talmud Yerushalmi according to the teachings of my saintly master, Rabbenu Hechossid Hagaon [of Vilna] ztzvk'l, whom I was privileged to attend before his death.'

"And lo, in the very midst of a bout of profuse, exhausting weeping, I fell into a deep sleep. It seemed to me as if someone came to me and gently tapped me, rousing me from my sleep, like one who just wakes up. And he said to me, `You have been afflicted, but you will be healed.' And from that moment on, I felt the loving-kindness enveloping me and saving me and my aforementioned daughter. (She later married the famous R' Yeshaya Bardaki, a noted esteemed personality in the annals of Jerusalem history.) Providence also found me another wife, Yuta Beila, may she live and be well...

"The plague recurred in 5574... Afterwards, I became burdened with the heavy responsibilities of my holy people, members of our kollel, with conducting and supporting them. I had to tend to their various material needs and guide their study regimen. I suffered greatly from persecution by the gentiles, the people in power, who closed off the city of Acco (during the battles of revolution) and cast me into prison, in the harsh conditions of captivity. I suffered the terrors of death, but Hashem the Merciful rescued me from all of these dangers.

"After this, in Adar 5585, there was a terrible landslide and collapse of the houses in Tzefas, as a result of heavy rains and fierce storms. Many homes caved in, as did my own home, on the thirteenth of Adar. My entire family and my neighbors were inside our respective homes at the time of the cave-in, but thanks to Hashem, we were miraculously spared..."

R' Yisroel concludes that he saw in this event the hand of Providence urging him to proceed with speed and complete his work. We see that his monumental work was indeed published in Tzefas in 5596, a year before the great earthquake. But his sufferings were not yet over. The devastating earthquake buried all of the printed copies in the rubble and he lost all of his money and his prospects of selling his works abroad.


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